UN meeting reaches agreement on measuring desertification

3 October 2009 – The world's countries have agreed to a minimum set of indicators for monitoring and assessing the extent of desertification, drought and land degradation in what a United Nations official has called a “groundbreaking achievement” in the battle against a problem afflicting nations on every continent.

After two weeks of negotiations involving hundreds of scientists, government ministers and officials, the Ninth Session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) wrapped up today in Buenos Aires with consensus on the measurement indicators.

Luc Gnacadja, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, described the agreement as “good news and a groundbreaking achievement” for the treaty, which entered into force in 1996.

“To describe an elephant, you have to agree on what an elephant looks like,” he said. “It is the same with desertification, land degradation and drought. Countries have to agree what these are before they can monitor trends in any one of them.”

As well as the indicators, Mr. Gnacadja said the ministers in attendance in Buenos Aires had sent “a strong message” to the talks in Copenhagen this December aimed at striking a long-term deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“A high level of convergence emerged at the ministerial segment on the need for a comprehensive new regime that includes the potential for soil in carbon sequestration, and serious attention to adaptation so that the poor are given their fair share of support.”

The Executive Secretary said the ministers called for a review of the costs of action versus the costs of inaction regarding combating land degradation.


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